Table 2

Illustrative quotations relating to symptom attribution, a subtheme of theme 1— initial appraisal of symptoms

Initial appraisal of symptoms
Diet and lifestyle ‘It comes and goes, it must be something that I eat and it just doesn’t agree with me’ (F, 60–69 years, 13–26 weeks, non-cancer)
I think it’s the picking up, it’s the bending that does it a lot with my job as well, ‘cos I lift heavy (clothing) all day, and I’m putting them over people and then bending and sitting down’ (F, 40–59 years, regular attender to GP, cancer)
Existing gastrointestinal conditions I’ve always suffered with what’s it called, you know, reflux, over the years, sometimes I could take some indigestion remedy and that Gaviscon thing and it’d calm down’ (F, 40–49 years, <2 weeks, non-cancer)
Other medical conditions, side effects of medication ‘At first I started putting it down to the diabetic pills, I thought ‘Well it’s probably because I’ve changed those’, you know, and this Pioglitazone, I kept thinking ‘Well it’s that’ (F 60–69 years, 2–4 weeks, cancer)
I’ve had this sort of tiredness and a little bit of discomfort on and off for a time, I thought it was possibly diabetesit kept on and we thought was perhaps as a result of some of the medication I was taking for other things.’ (M, 70–79 years, 13–26 weeks, cancer)